Tough Property Seizure Law Makes it Through Arizona Senate

The state Senate has passed a bill that would make it tougher for prosecutors and police to seize property. The new measure would require prosecutors to prove that the items they want to take as evidence were involved in the crime with “clear and convincing evidence.” This will provide a higher standard of proof before police can seize property than is currently in place.

Arizona HB 2477

HB 2477 was passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will now move on to a final vote of approval in the Senate and then to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office.

The bill is intended to prevent law-enforcement officials and prosecutors’ groups from seizing property based solely on suspicion or for profit reasons. As the law stands now, proceeds from forfeited property are funneled back into police and prosecutors’ offices. Those whose property is taken by the government have very few options for recourse, and they can be costly.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said the new bill aims to give people facing this kind of forfeit some rights and protections, stating that there have been abuses in the criminal asset forfeiture arena.

Opposition to the bill

Critics of the bill mainly come from county attorneys offices and police departments, and they oppose certain portions of the legislation rather than the bill in its entirety. Some concerns include the effect it could have on the joint partnership between state and federal police agencies.

Others opposed to the bill disagree with the change to the standard of search and seizure. The new bill would change the standard from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” making the process to seize property more difficult.

Many critics of the bill believe that the claims of excessive search and seizures supporting the bill have been overexaggerated and that there is no need to change the standard.